Launched in August 2019, the plant has a processing capacity of up to 750,000 tonnes a year and will be able to treat larger and larger quantities of used vegetable and frying oil, animal fats, algae and waste/advanced by-products to produce high-quality biofuels. A total of more than 360 million euros has so far been spent on the conversion of the refinery and the ancillaries units. In March 2021, 18 months after the bio-refinery was opened, the new Biomass Treatment Unit (BTU) begins production, allowing up to 100% of raw material waste to be used for biofuel production, to create a zero-kilometre circular economy model for the production of biodiesel, bio-naphtha, bioLPG and bio-jet. Castor oil will also be used to feed the Gela biorefinery, thanks to an experimental project to grow castor plants on semi-desert land in Tunisia, thereby completely replacing palm oil, which will no longer be used in Eni's production processes from 2023. The plant’s construction began in early 2020 and despite slowdowns caused by the management of activities during the pandemic, the vast majority of the project was completed on schedule. 1.3 million hours were worked, with zero accidents for both Eni people and contract workers.
Our bio-refinery in Gela is designed for treating advanced and unconventional loads up to 100% of processing capacity. It is one of the few bio-refineries in the world with such high operating flexibility. Gela is defined by its ability to process "unconventional" second-generation raw material from food production waste, regenerated used cooking oil (RUCO), animal fats (tallow) and by-products from processing vegetable oil. This makes it an innovative plant with high environmental sustainability that can process loads that would otherwise be disposed of as waste – to the cost of the community and the environment – using them instead for biofuel.
In addition, in 2021 the incidence rate of palm oil supplied for the production of biodiesel was reduced by approximately 34 percentage points compared to 2020, leveraging on the start-up of a new Biomass Treatment Unit (BTU) at the Gela biorefinery, enabling the use of up to 100% of biomass not in competition with the food chain for the production of biofuels.
In 2021, production of biofuels (HVO) amounted to approximately 585 ktonnes according to certifications in use (European RED and related directives) and the volumes of biofuels processed from vegetable oil were 665 mmtonnes down by 6% from the previous period.